Twic, South Sudan - In a culture where wealth is measured by the one’s herd and bride price can cost anything between 50 to 70 cows, Mayuen Akut, a 64-year-old farmer describes having to separate with his cattle twice as heartbreaking.
“You see, owning cattle in my community is not only a status symbol but our way of life – they are an asset, a currency, our sustenance, a tradition that is closely linked to our Dinka identities,” says Mayuen. “Cattle keepers from our villages endeavor to reach what I had achieved. Imagine the pain I felt when I got separated from my cattle, not once, but twice. It’s as if the foundations of our family were shattered, my heart smacked into pieces.”
Mayuen did what he says most men his age consider the recipe to success in this fledgling country: own a farmland, buy and raise cattle, get married and start a family.
His first heartbreak happened at the height of the civil war in the 80s when his would-be bride got married to another man, he lost his cattle in a raid. In the intervening years, he would rebuild his life from the ground up and eventually marry in 1991.
However, in April 2022, Mayuen was forced to flee when intercommunal violence erupted in his village of Makuach forcing him to flee with his family on the night of April 2022, leaving behind his farmland, tukul and cattle.
“We left a life of exactly three decades that could not simply be packed in our backpacks.”
The father of six now finds himself in a site for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Nyindeng Ayuel, sharing the tiny temporary shelter with some of his kids and wife. A far cry from what used to be a relatively comfortable life back in Makuach.
“The current situation we find ourselves in is heartbreaking but there is nothing we can do but persevere. We can only make-do with what is available and given to us here,” said Mayuen.
On arriving at the camp, they received emergency shelter from the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) and were enlisted in cash-for-work programme by IOM’s camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) teams deployed to carry out rapid needs assessment for newly arriving IDPs. IOM has so far launched community based CCCM mobile response in six displacement sites across Twic.
“Having access to accurate and timely information at the onset of acute displacement was critical to informing IOM CCCM’s roving response modality. In this case, amongst other priorities, providing short-term alternative livelihood opportunities while maintaining the site’s sanitation environment were identified as key,” IOM CCCM Programme Coordinator, Francois Guillaume Jaeck, said.
In the days that followed, Mayuen started working inside the camp to raise income to sustain his family in the new environment. He assisted with digging and opening drainages in the camp for which he received a daily stipend of $5 from IOM. With the little money, Mayuen buys different products which he resells for profit, something he regards as a worthwhile investment. Through this, he has managed to cover his children's educational expenses and household needs.
“I am glad the financial support we are getting gives us liberty to spend or invest it in whatever enterprise we want as opposed to a fixed material support.”
IOM’s mobile or roving response has reached nearly 75,000 IDPs across five counties with community-led activities since 2022.
Cash-based intervention is an effective life-saving tool that provides short-term employment measures for vulnerable target groups to meet their immediate needs.
Mayuen is not only helping to rehabilitate community infrastructure but also enhancing his skills from the training he receives from IOM. The stipend he gets from his work also goes into improving the local economy.
“I am aware that the financial support won’t be for long and so I am venturing into a small business to help us prepare.”
Mayuen says he would love to return home and spend his twilight years looking after his cattle, but he fears for his family’s safety.
“If returning home is not possible, I would love to bring and move my family in another part of this community where we can continue raising our children and cattle.”
The Multi-sectoral response to increase CCCM, Shelter, Non-food Items and WASH needs of the most vulnerable populations affected by increased violence, natural disasters and food insecurity in Warrap, Jonglei, Unity and Western Equatoria states is supported by South Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SSHF), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).